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cabrales

Culinary School in Montreal / Quebec

77 posts in this topic

Hello all, I am new to the board(been reading posts for last 4 months) but figured it might be fun to relate some of my recent experiences and in the process vent a bit. I have always wanted to work in restaurants and the last 2-3 years I have been reading,studying,experimenting extensively with cooking. After many years of working crummy office jobs I finally gave in to the voices in my head and at 25 decided to go into culinary school started a program in feb2004 and am into the last leg of my program I finish in june and have a 3 week stage I need to set up. I am also in the process of looking for a job in a kitchen(can't stand working current desk job anymore) the problem is that every restaurant I apply to seem willing enough for the stage and seem somewhat interested for employement but as soon as they look at my cv and see that I don't have any kitchen experience they get all hesitant and vague about employment and say "maybe after my stage". I can understand that they might be reluctant to take on a complete newbie, but how the heck am i supposed to get any experience if I cannot get a place to take me in. It is sad because I have been working really hard in school, staying extra hours and in general get 100% on most of my exams, I also read up extensively and will even spend my spare time trying out different methods at home. The problem is that there seems to be no way I can communicate this to the people I talk to, I rarely talk to the chefs and if I do, I dunno how to express this without sounding like a fool. I know that you gotta start from the bottom and freely accept the challenge would also want in return a chef or place where I have the opportunity to learn and apply myself. Anyhow so that's the predicament anyone have any suggestions?? Otherwise I am having a great time in school it's such an odd change(i feel like I lead a double life) to be in after working in offices since I was 17 but for the first time it feels like everything is in it's right place. I also find this place amazing, I have learned about new places to visit in Montreal, techniques from chefs and amateurs alike it's really cool.

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First of all congratulations on selecting this profession as a career.Very rewarding and unlike any other job you could ever experience.If your serious you will go far and enjoy the benefits.For now they are a long way in sight,but keep in mind it is a process to become a chef, or even a chef-de partie---not a position that is given.

As for chefs not willing to look at you till after your stage,this is proper as the process involves seeing what you can do and then the chef will have clear insight as to how you will do.Most chefs can figure out how good you will be,just after a few days in the kitchen,as not only skills are important-but work ethic,hygene and attitude are really important in this field.

As well if you are real serious about this career,and you want to end up in a top notch resto,then ask the chef if you can do a trial shift.This is common practice.

As well do not look at your 3 week stage as a requirement,but rather as a stepping stone and introduction to the industry.My own stage period was for 4 months and was not the end of school,but between semesters. ( 20 years later,I can still say it was the most influential experience ever)

Good luck,choose well and workhard.Perhaps you will impress a chef.

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Pots is 100% right. Your Stage is essentially your interview. There is a serious problem with the latest generation of culinary grads who seem to look at there stage as a bother. If you want a job in a pro kitchen, choose your stage wisely. If you get the stage you were looking for- make it count. Work as many hours as you can, bring enthusiasm, good attitude and work ethic and it will usaully translate into a job oppurtunity. Good luck.

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hi cricklewood and welcome to eGullet!

i am an adult (mid 30s) who is entertaining the idea of going back to school (i'm an administrative professional now)--to the ITHQ.

if you feel like it, can you talk a bit about a typical day, the curriculum, etc?

good luck.


"The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the ocean."

--Isak Dinesen

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Well, just read the thread and it brings back memories.

This sounds all too familiar, I was also one of those people working in an office job 9 to 5 and was getting nothing out of it when I decided to go to culinary school. Only difference was I was 32 years old, you are still a pup!

Anyhow, what I want to tell you is to go to your stage with a positive mind set, be willing to take the good with the bad. Trust me I 've worked with many people with no experience and if you have a will to work hard, learn, and have a good attitude your chef will see this. Sometimes people who are willing to learn and do not come out of school thinking they know it all are easier to work with.

So, stay positive and keep us posted as to where you will be going to on your 3 weeks of fun,fun,fun!!

What school are you going to?

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Wow I did not expect so many responses, thank you all for your kind words. I did not mean to come off as brash in my post, I was tired and a bit frustrated, I do not view my stage as a obligation or bother quite the contrary I look forward to it and am really excited, also a bit scared. I know that a long road lies ahead and it won't always be easy, I am not in a hurry to get a high positions quickly, but I do want to leave my crummy office job asap, working in that kind of environment is becoming hazardous to my sanity. So I am on a double quest stage and work, but seems I can't get anyone interested in hiring me for work, I am willing to do some trial shifts but have not yet been able to speak to a chef concerning this, just gotta keep trying. Cook em all(thanks for the heads up) I have applied at your establishment last week but came at a time where no one was available, a girl politely took my cv and suggest I come back another day have not had a chance due to loads of work to hand in this week. Thanks again for your responses, i was just bit down since I genuily feel that i have something to offer to someone willing to take me in but that I could not express this to anyone. Gus_tatory I will do write up for you on another post.

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What school are you attending, and where are you planning to do your stage?

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What school are you attending, and where are you planning to do your stage?

I attend cfp Jacques-Rousseau in longueil, I live on the south shore so it was easier for me to start off my day there and go into town afterwards to go to work. My program started in feb2004. The school is well equipped, properly staffed Classes are mon-fri from 8am to 2:30pm. We spend most of that time in the kitchens although there is a fair bit of theory involved as well. The school has a restaurant so we get to practice our menu simple, table d'hôte and à la carte menus in the production kitchen for actual customers. Gus feel free to ask any questions of message me if you`d like. Chefworks I am not set on one particular establishment to do my stage in, I would like to do it in a resto that isn't too large so I can maybe get some interaction with the chef. So far I have made requests at Garçon, Cocagne,l'express, café mélies, le2, Le castillon, an a few others, waiting for some replies.

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although i'm sure your teachers have warned you on the reality of being a cook, i feel it's my duty to let you know that you're about to go through a radical change in lifestyles.

because people sometimes forget to mention that cooking in a pro kitchen has nothing to do with what charley trotter does on t.v. (there is no silence and there are no soothing lights :biggrin:

if you can handle stress, pressure, heat, noise, perhaps sometimes organized chaos (depending on where you work) none the less a rush is a rush no matter where you work, the stakes are always the same: great food all the time nomatter if you're doing 30 or 300 covers.

if you can handle it (not everybody can), it will be the best change of your life.

because it is fun, you do learn alot and you will meet interesting people that i can guaranty, ask anybody.

my advice to you : dont take it to seriously, dont forget to have fun (because cooking is fun) and you never where it's going to take you

good luck!

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Atomic thanks for the heads up, I am quite nervous about the change it's gonna be radical in everyway, I currently work an office job I have been there for 5+years and make quite a bit more than the average salary. I know I'm headed for a rough end of year lotsa hours stress and little pay but I feel it's all for the better. I know I can handle the stress I just gotta learn to relax your advice was given to me by my teach, he said I work really well but I get too nervous, he says just have fun and relax(he jokingly suggested I have 1or 2 beers before my first shift in a kitchen to loosen up :laugh: ). On the other hand I have some cool stuff to look forward to. We are doing a friends and family dinner in may, basically I invite 4-6 diners and cook a 4(i'm gonna sneak in more)course menu(of my devising) for my table. I see it as my last time to show off( creation wise) before I finish school, i will post my menu up if anyone is interested in checking it out or helping out.

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I've been through the same process recently, Cricklewood. After years in retail sales, I followed my heart into the kitchen. I graduated from NAIT in Edmonton last April, at the age of 40. It's definitely an adjustment, and you're in for a few years of low-paid ass-busting work. I'm loving it, mind you, I just wish I didn't hurt in quite so many places.

As for landing a job, the best advice I can give you is to be targetted and intentional. Don't just fire off a CV to any place that strikes you as interesting. Look at the websites and menus of the places you apply to. Research the chefs; there's a surprising amount of info out there on the Internet. One place I applied the exec is a triathlete; another is a fairly serious jazz musician. I made a point of knowing that about them before I ever darkened their doors. I also made a point of reading their menus and anything I could find (local papers, magazines, restaurant reviews, etc) explaining their attitudes and approaches toward food.

Because the time will come when one of these godlike individuals (note my expressionless face) will sit you down and ask you a very simple question: "Why do you want to work here?" Your answer, very often, will decide whether you get a real interview or the ten-minute brushoff. Give them good reasons, real reasons (anybody who hires his own staff will smell bullshit in a second); and ideally reasons that convey a benefit to the chef. You can't come in with a song and dance about your cooking skills, because the second he puts you on the line you're going to get hammered. Emphasize skills like performance under pressure, deadlines successfully dealt with against all odds, organizational aptitude, perseverance...you get the picture. The things any employer wants to hear. But only if they're accurate and demonstrable (and ideally, things your references will cheerfully affirm).

In my particular instance, I had the disadvantage of finding a stage in a city 3000 km from where I was living at the time (Halifax). I exercised due diligence at the research end, sent off the e-mails, and landed a spot in one of my top three choices (I still work there on weekends). Believe me, I made my case at length and in detail, and my letter was not generic. Aside from the introductory explanation of my circumstances, each of those queries was specific to that particular kitchen.

I still needed to prove myself once I got there, but that was a question of attitude rather than skillset. The chef knew (and I knew) that if I had the right attitude she could teach me the rest. I'm still learning, every day, and I'm confident that I made the right decision. YMMV, but it's a great industry.


Fat=flavor

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the advice your teacher gave you about the 1 or 2 beers is a good one, but you might want to keep it for after your shift.

trust me, you'll need it to help you unwind :biggrin:

that will most likely become a tradition with you and your co workwers, wich is also a nice part of the job

cheers!

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Chromedome thanks for the kind words, nice to know they are more people in the same boat, I hope I do well, I actually might have a tryout in a place next week(thanks egullet) and from there will see what happens, I am nervous as hell and will take one heck of a salary cut(probably more than half, why oh why did I accumulate such debt??) but it's going to be worth it. Atomic yes the beer will be kept for after the shift, already a tradition at school (when we are not dashing off to work after class). School is going well march break is next week and that means I can have more than 4 hours sleep per night(yay!)

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I've always loved eating and in my adult years, this has converted into a love of cooking. I breathe cooking books and shows and love having friends and family over for meals.

But I find myself wanting more. I want a class that I could go to once a week to build up true technique, to see a master chef debone a chicken, then practice until I get it right. Have someone tell me, then show me how to properly use crepine, roast meat, make jus, etc.

I'm not quitting my day job, so the ITHQ seems out of the question. And I don't want one of those one shot classes where they show you how to make pasta, or cook a recipe out of a book.

Does such a place exist in Montreal? I've stumbled across l'Académie culinaire, but I don't know anything about it. They do have a several weeks long "techniques de base" course, but they don't say what these techniques would be (I don't want to be stuck learning how to chop onions for 2 hours...)...

Please, any suggestions are welcome!

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I used to teach at the Academie Culinaire about a decade ago. The basic cooking classes were very good and popular back then, and I would think now as well. The facilities are excellent. I don't know if they offer classes in English anymore, though they once did.

ITHQ was also offering night courses at one point. That would be worth checking out.

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Thanks Lesley!

Would you have a sampling of what you learn at the basic training classes?

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I can relate to your situation, Alex the cook. I have had no formal training and don't plan to, maybe the odd class for fun might be in the cards (rural Italy sounds good).

AFAIC, if you want to cook like a classic French chef you pretty much need to train like one. I beleive the more one does something, the better one gets at it. But, no offense to the highly skilled and educated chefs out there, its just food. . . it's not neurosurgery. By this I mean some of the greatest chefs of all time are self-taught and have rose through the ranks by doing not studying. One can chef a restaurant with a very limited breadth of technique or virtually no knowledge of other cultures and traditions.

Why not get some used cooking school textbooks, or watch some of the videos online for free or for sale?


Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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http://www.academieculinaire.com

That's the web site for the academie culinaire. Check out the "cours grand public" section. There are English courses there as well, not cheap mind you. Eight courses of 3 hours each is close to $700!

I would recommend you take a single course first, to see if the place suits your needs.

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For baking classes, there is also King Arthur flour in Vermont. I would suggest you try the excellent classes by our own James MacGuire (from Montreal). It is a bit expensive, but well worth it. I have been there a few times and stayed in the nearby town a Woodstock...Lovely place!

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I am student and do not have that much money to blow on courses. Would I better advised buying about like Pépin's one to improve on my technique or are these courses that much better?

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check Raza's cooking classes (114 laurier west)

www.restaurantraza.com

I was there for ceviche (december 6)

I've always loved eating and in my adult years, this has converted into a love of cooking. I breathe cooking books and shows and love having friends and family over for meals.

But I find myself wanting more. I want a class that I could go to once a week to build up true technique, to see a master chef debone a chicken, then practice until I get it right. Have someone tell me, then show me how to properly use crepine, roast meat, make jus, etc.

I'm not quitting my day job, so the ITHQ seems out of the question. And I don't want one of those one shot classes where they show you how to make pasta, or cook a recipe out of a book.

Does such a place exist in Montreal? I've stumbled across l'Académie culinaire, but I don't know anything about it. They do have a several weeks long "techniques de base" course, but they don't say what these techniques would be (I don't want to be stuck learning how to chop onions for 2 hours...)...

Please, any suggestions are welcome!

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Are these Raza classes hands-on or is it just a dog and pony show?

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Hello, I am a university student (in life sciences, if it makes a difference), with basically zero knowledge of cooking. Would the basic course at academie culinaire be well suited for me? Or should I get some experience on my own first?

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Sockhead, I think before you shell out lots of money for classes, what's important would be to figure out exactly what you want to get out of cooking classes. Do you want to just pick up a few recipes so you can make some decent meals for yourself w/out getting too involved in the nitty gritty or do you want to learn from the bottom up, real classic cooking techniques? Establish what your initial needs and level of involvement are and work from there. You can learn a lot from reading a couple of good books and then nothing beats real hands on cooking and tasting, do the same recipe often until you master it. Don't get bummed out by failures they happen often at the beginning. Resist the temptations of trendy cookbooks a lot of them contain mostly flash but few recipes beginners can feel confident about trying and mastering. Some swear by the old joy of cooking tomes or Julia child. Nigel Slater's books are great if a bit frustrating at first because he is very free with quantities and instructions but as your confidence grows you will appreciate this. The first 2 Jamie Oliver books are a good start no matter what one's opinions of the man are. Marcella Hazan's books are also good, how to cook everything by Marc Bittman. Investing some money in decent cooking tools (a good knife, cast iron pan, stockpot) are a better initial investment since you will always need these things to cook even if it's just to cook some pasta. E-mail me I would be glad to help you out or try and answer any questions you have.

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